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Hamas Presents Palestinian Cabinet

The Islamic militant group Hamas presented its government to the Palestinian Parliament on Monday. The incoming Hamas prime minister called for dialogue with international mediators and continued aid for Palestinians, but offered no compromise on the Hamas position not to recognize Israel.

In a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh called on international mediators, known as the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - to reach what he described as a just peace in the Middle East.

The Hamas leader said his incoming government wants a dialogue with the Quartet mediators, saying Hamas is ready and willing to start a dialogue, to find a way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also called on the international community not to cut aid to Palestinians. The United States and EU have said they will cut aid to a Hamas-led government, because they consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

This is the first time Ismail Haniyeh has suggested that Hamas is interested in negotiations to address settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time, the Hamas leader gave no indication of how that goal could be achieved as long as Hamas refuses to disarm, recognize Israel or honor previous agreements between Palestinians and Israelis.

Haniyeh's comments were immediately rejected by Israel, which called them double talk. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says the U.S. will not speak with Hamas. The European Union's special envoy to the region, Mark Otte, says Europe is waiting for Hamas to adhere to previous agreements between Palestinians and Israelis before it will work with Hamas.

Because Israel bars Hamas members from traveling to the West Bank, Haniyeh spoke to legislative council members in the West Bank by a video link from the Gaza Strip. In his remarks, the Hamas leader appealed to Arab donors to invest in the Palestinian territories to ease the financial hardships of Palestinians.

Palestinian legislators are expected to hold a vote of confidence on the Hamas Cabinet and government program later this week.